Something sacred, something free
PETER KATER experiences the essence of true freedom while on his paddle board in the early morning off the island of Maui. His first of many encounters with a humpback whale, an ambassador of the sacred and free, is for him a wonderful opportunity to explore the unknown.
When I first moved to Maui in 2007 I learned to paddle board and I can honestly say that the ocean experiences I’ve had since have changed my life. Here is a recap of one of my first such adventures.
I headed out on my paddle board very early one morning looking for an experience. The ocean and winds were calm so I ventured further out than normal, and probably further than would have been advisable given that the sun had not yet risen and I was the only one in the water as far as I could see. But I really wanted an experience.
I paddled for a while, breathing deeply into the fears that sometimes surfaced in my mind and stomach. Fears about sharks and unexpected winds, and my own vulnerability and mortality. As soon as one set of inner disturbances or ripples of fear dispersed, another surfaced. But I kept breathing into them and relaxing my body and mind. Setting my sights on the horizon as I paddled forward, I kept breathing, waiting patiently for the layers of thoughts to disintegrate so that I could simply be present.
Finally the thought surfaced, “I’m so far from shore!”
Then I looked down at my feet standing on top of my beautiful red striped board and I thought, “But I am here, standing on my board!”
Life isn’t on the shore. Life isn’t elsewhere. It’s here. Like it or not, wherever we go, there we are. And I was here, simply standing on my board, holding my paddle, somewhere out on the ocean with Maui’s shore far in the distance. That is all. And that was the last of my distracting thoughts for that morning.
I asked myself, “What was I was searching for out here in the ocean, alone, so early in the morning? And the thought occurred to me, “Something sacred, something free.”
I wanted to touch on something that was intrinsically just it-Self. Something completely free and wild. Something that was not defined by its productivity or assigned some relative value or worth based on what it did or didn’t do. Something that didn’t need to practice being.
Something completely free and wild.
Something that was not defined
by its productivity or assigned
some relative value or worth
based on what it did or didn’t do.
Something that didn’t need to
I wanted an experience that could remind and reconnect me with the essential part of myself that existed before all the concepts, ideals and values were layered upon me. I wanted to experience the part of me that transcended even the loftiest and most well-meaning of spiritual aspirations. Spiritual ideals, values and concepts are merely vehicles to guide and transport us to a place where they are no longer useful or relevant. They are only stepping stones, not a destination. I wanted to experience something natural. I wanted to feel true freedom. I wanted to experience my essence.
We hug our concepts and beliefs close to ourselves, like a favorite soft blanket protecting us from the cold. We hug it so close that we don’t realize we’ve not only blanketed our eyes but our hearts as well. Even the most comforting, well-meaning thoughts and intentions can blind and separate us from what is present and right in front of us. It’s like forgetting it is spring and still carrying the blanket and snow boots needed in winter. Being here was very different than anywhere I’d ever been so far in my life. And being here required a lot more breathing and letting go.
True inspiration comes from venturing into the unknown, a new territory. It comes from letting go, into a new awareness.
A new breath. You have to be willing to let go of what you know, of what is familiar, to relinquish control and experience something new with open eyes and open heart.
I’d started paddling out on my board, hugging my identity, concepts, fears and aspirations close to me. One by one I dropped them into the ocean, and they submerged. I became more and more vulnerable and present as I disarmed myself of my illusion of separateness and identity.
Finally, as I stood alone on my board a mile or more offshore, watching the sunrise shimmering brightly over the crater peak of Maui, I heard it. A huge, wet exhale. The sound of water and air spraying out with one giant breath into the atmosphere. Compared to the quiet lapping of water on my board, this new sound was like a freight train blowing its whistle into the dawn. As I heard it again I turned to look, and I saw it! It’s dark long rolling back, surfacing up along the water and then many yards later, rolling back into the ocean. It rolled and rolled, submerging like a giant sea serpent from some mythological fairytale. It gracefully sliced through the water until it completely submerged with a playful slap of its tail fin. This beautiful humpback whale, less than 30 feet away, was now heading directly towards me.
This is what I was looking for: first an encounter with myself, and then with a living, breathing ambassador of something sacred and free. The whale just is. A giant symbol of the unknown, from a world I could only peer into for a few seconds at a time. Yet, at that moment, we shared the same water and breathed the same air.
I saw it’s huge amazing body slice through the water over and over again. In between paddling hard to keep up with it, I also sat patiently, quietly, waiting for it to resurface again for the air that we both shared. In some ways the waiting and listening was my favorite part.
The air was thick with mystery and anticipation. I submerged my head into the water to listen to its whale song and couldn’t believe how loud and clear it was. The whale surfaced and submerged a few more times before heading further out to sea. I had gone as far out as my mind could tolerate and slowly paddled back to shore.
That was one of my very first experiences with the humpback whales that migrate from Alaska to Maui from December to April every year, to mate and have offspring. Since then I’ve had dozens and dozens of amazing experiences with them. Their ancient intelligence is palpable, as is the beautiful aloha energy of Maui. I am grateful to live in a place where their presence is so strong and frequent. It has changed my life.
Excerpts from the author’s blog https://peterkater.com/something-sacredsomething-free/.
Reprinted with permission.
Article by PETER KATER
May 30, 2020
May 30, 2020
April 30, 2020